Drought challenges mounting for California farmers
October 26, 2015
California farmers are leaving hundreds of thousands of acres unplanted and are spending million of dollars to access water during the ongoing drought. But, California growers are still reluctant to raise fruit and vegetable prices causing them to bear the blunt of the state’s water woes. [Wall Street Journal]
Statewide farmers will spend about $1.37 billion on pumping groundwater this year. In an average year, they spend about $780 million.
California farmers produce a majority share of several of the fruits and vegetables grown in the United States. Still, there has been little increase in U.S. produce prices this year.
Average retail prices for fresh fruit are down 3 percent this year and egetable prices are up 1 percent. Overall, U.S. food prices have increased by less than 2 percent.
“The improvement in pricing has not been anywhere close to the increase in raw input costs and the cost you get stranded with when you have such a large percentage of your land unplanted,” said Steve Hamm, controller for San Joaquin Valley grower Harris Farms.
Some California farmers have shifted from growing grains to producing fruits and vegetables. Grains are more water intensive.
Also, as U.S. farmers cut outputs, imports from Mexico, Chile and elsewhere increase impacting the state’s economy.
Within California, the drought is not impacting all farmers equally. Central Valley farmers have struggled more than coastal growers to cope with drought conditions.
Regions like the Salinas Valley have a more temperate climate and more access to water in local aquifers than areas like the San Joaquin Valley.